Hollywood powerbrokers past and present officially bid farewell to one of their own Sundays.
Bert Fields, who died August 8 at the age of 93, was honored by clients, family and colleagues at a memorial service in Santa Monica today. Jeffrey Katzenberg, Dustin Hoffman, Susan Estrich and Michael Ovitz paid tribute to the Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger LLP partner and industry advisor to a well-heeled audience that included Fields’ widow, Barbara Guggenheim, Leslie Moonves and Julie Chen Moonves, Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy, super producer Jerry Bruckheimer and David Geffen among many others.
Katzenberg, Hoffman, and Ovitz individually recalled a man who was clearly both their friend and their attorney.
“Like the greatest gladiator, he loved taking on formidable foes,” said Katzenberg of Fields, who represented him during Katzenberg’s multi-million dollar fight against Disney in the late 1990s. The former DreamWorks Animation boss called the attorney a “kind, loyal and generous friend” and a “superhero” and earned a giggle from the packed crowd on the Eli and Edythe Broad Stage when he noted Fields’ “wicked sense of humor.” .
Later, an emotional Hoffman spoke of Fields’ “fearless” nature — a trait reiterated that afternoon. The Oscar winner called Fields “a man I will always think of… forever in his prime.”
Longtime Fields clients Tom Cruise and the hilariously heartfelt Elaine May appeared virtually during the three-hour memorial service attended by the mostly masked attendees to offer their condolences and memories of the man.
The Mission: Impossible star spoke of first meeting Fields through Hoffman while filming Rain Man. Cruise said he was “grateful” for Fields’ friendship and called the attorney “the most fascinating person I’ve ever met.” Cruise added that Fields “was a person I knew I could always count on.”
“He loved Davids, he hated Goliaths,” former CAA chief Ovitz told the audience.
Commemoration Sunday began with a clip from an old dragnet episode, in which a matinee idol Fields played a lawyer in the courtroom, and began with a video that paid tribute to the lawyer’s life, career, family and sense of the absurd pays.
Also speaking at the memorial hosted by Rich Eisen today were Fields’ colleagues, his goddaughter Ali Hoffman and other relatives, including the attorney’s grandchildren Michael and Annabelle Fields.
But the remarks that clearly dominated the day belonged to Fields’ widow, Guggenheim. In loving, tearful references to Shakespeare and boisterous but always poised remarks, Guggenheim closed the memorial with an intimate overview of the life of the man to whom she was married for more than three decades.
“He was always so nice to everyone,” she said in a speech in which her voice often broke with emotion. Guggenheim provided insight into Fields’ writings on the lives of Richard III, Shakespeare, and Elizabeth I and other books he wrote, and also had some news for the crowd. She said Fields completed one last work on William the Conqueror and the history of the House of Plantagenet before his death.
Guggenheim praised her prolific husband’s “fighting spirit in all aspects of life” and promised publication of the work.
A born bon vivant and storyteller as well as a lawyer, Fields took pride in his literary endeavors as well as his litigation — a fact that only enhanced his reputation in high-profile circles, considering Fields covered the knees for Disney and Michael Eisner won a $250 million payout for former studio boss Katzenberg in the late 1990s. Mythologized over the decades as a Jeffrey vs. Goliath confrontation, Fields’ systemic legal methodology and his somewhat prophetic embrace of technological prospects for the entertainment industry left Disney lawyers reeling.
Other clients included Cruise, now pariahs Harvey and Bob Weinstein, Avatar Kingpin James Cameron, Madonna, Hoffman, Warren Beatty (vs Paramount for cuts to the acclaimed Reds), The Beatles, Michael Jackson, godfather author Mario Puzo and his estate , Star Wars creators George Lucas, Bruckheimer and Steven Spielberg.
Fields never hesitated to take off the white gloves, however, and was also drawn into Hollywood’s underbelly. In particular, the attorney’s association with disgraced PI Anthony Pellicano, who served a decade behind bars and was released in 2019, proved problematic. In 2008, Fields testified in the FBI case against Pellicano, whom he had hired on numerous occasions. Ultimately, Field’s standing skills and Teflon skin left him relatively unaffected by the courtroom drama and Pellicano’s actions.
While these events were only briefly mentioned during the memorial service, today’s gathering of the heavyweights made it clear that those dark days are but a footnote in Field’s career.